The City Council’s decision to keep Wood Colony in Modesto’s growth plans for the coming decades is a tale of two perceptions.
Mayor Garrad Marsh said the decision protects the colony – a more-than-century-old, close-knit farming enclave west of Highway 99 – while setting aside nearby land for commercial development and business parks.
Jake Wenger – a fourth-generation colony farmer, community leader and Modesto Irrigation District board member – said the council’s decision greatly increases the city’s influence in the colony and makes development more likely. “If the ultimate goal of the City Council was to protect Wood Colony,” he said, “they would have left it out, and that’s not what they did.”
Modesto is updating the land-use and transportation components of its general plan, which serves as a blueprint for how the city will grow and develop over several decades.
The City Council decided Tuesday what land to include in the general plan and how that land should be designated, such as for business parks, agriculture and other uses. Besides Wood Colony, the council voted to keep Salida – Modesto’s unincorporated neighbor to the northwest – in the plan, to the dismay of Salida residents.
About 300 Wood Colony and Salida residents, as well as their supporters, packed Tuesday’s meeting, which lasted more than seven hours. Roughly 100 people spoke in opposition to Modesto’s plans; some warned of political consequences if the council included the two communities in the city’s future.
Salida Municipal Advisory Council President Katherine Borges said Wednesday that she and others will meet over the next month to discuss an effort to recall the entire City Council. “The only viable options were for both (communities) to be 100 percent out” of the general plan, she said. “And they did not do that. So we are going after them.”
The vote to keep Salida was 4-3, with Marsh and council members Jenny Kenoyer and John Gunderson voting “no.” The Wood Colony vote on a land-use map designed by Marsh was 5-2, with Councilmen Dave Lopez and Bill Zoslocki voting “no.”
Salida and Wood Colony have been in Modesto’s general plan since 1995, but no development has occurred. Fierce opposition has arisen in Salida in the past couple of years after Marsh started exploring whether it made sense for Modesto to annex Salida. City officials have said Salida’s available land along Highway 99 makes it ideal for business and industrial development.
The general plan designates about 1,000 acres in Wood Colony for business and commercial development, centered in what the city calls the Beckwith Road-Dakota Avenue triangle.
Marsh’s map designates 1,340 acres in Wood Colony for agriculture in an area bounded by Dakota Avenue to the west, Woodland Avenue to the south and roughly Beckwith Road to the north. The map designates 163 acres above Beckwith for commercial development, such as big-box retailers, and 941 acres below Woodland for business parks.
Marsh said the 1,340 acres are the heart of the colony and by designating them for agriculture, the city is protecting the community, especially from encroachment from Stanislaus County. He said the 941-acre area, which ends at Maze Boulevard, is not part of Wood Colony’s historic boundaries and is needed for development because of its proximity to Highways 99 and 132.
Marsh said council members are being good stewards of ag land. For instance, he said, they approved changing the land-use designation for about 1,400 acres west of Carpenter Road and south of Kansas Avenue from housing to agriculture.
He also stands by his Wood Colony map. “I think they (colony residents) got what they wanted,” Marsh said. “All of Wood Colony except for the 163 acres at the top was taken out” of the city’s plans.
Wenger said Wood Colony includes the 941 acres and the City Council got what it wanted. “They got to double the number of acres in the colony in the general plan,” he said. “And even though 1,300 is agriculture, that is deceptive. This or subsequent councils could change that land designation to housing or business parks or other development.”
He added that the only encroachment Wood Colony residents face is from the city. He fears the mayor’s map boxes in the community and ultimately will lead to development throughout it.
Modesto will spend more than a year conducting environmental reviews of the general plan map the council approved Tuesday before bringing the general plan changes back to the council for adoption in 2015.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.